Gard P&I Club says that many claims relating to heat damage in soya bean cargoes loaded in South America, particularly Brazil and Uruguay, mostly for discharge in China have been reported this year. Due to the relatively high value of soya beans and the fairly large quantities shipped, the disputes have in some cases involved multi-million dollar claims. In a recently published loss prevention article, Gard P&I Club highlights the importance of inspections as important visible signs that fall under the phrase “apparent condition” can reveal at an early stage the problem and recommends guidelines to assist operations involved in the transportation of soya bean cargoes.
It is important to remember that there is an obligation in law, under the relevant cargo carriage liability regimes, to inspect the cargo’s apparent order and condition at loading, to enable the Master to ensure that the bill of lading is accurate in its description of these items. The same regimes obliges the Master and his crew to properly care for the cargo once loaded.
The following recommendations are therefore provided with a view to assist operators and clients involved in the transportation of soya bean cargoes with cargo care and loss prevention:
• The Master and crew should be vigilant during loading and monitor the visual condition of the cargo so far as practicable, using breaks in the loading for closer inspections.
Soya beans are pale yellow/brown by appearance. Although contracts allow for a mixture of several percentage points of damaged and discoloured beans, including often 1 per cent burnt beans, seek advice if portions of the cargo visibly differ from normal with parts of discoloured or black beans.
• Cargo temperatures should ideally be taken during breaks in loading and, for the purposes of ventilation, on completion of loading. If significant temperature variations (say 5 to 10°C) and/or elevated temperatures are noted, this may be indicative of self-heating already underway.
• Once on board, in loading port(s) and during voyages, soya beans should be cared for like any other grain, i.e. kept dry at all the times and properly ventilated in accordance with normal maritime practice, following the shipper’s prescribed fumigation periods (if any). Although natural ventilation as found on board many bulk carriers is not effective in controlling spoilage deep within the hold, and cannot prevent self-heating caused by inherent cargo conditions, it is nevertheless important that the ventilation practice is recorded accurately in the log book in case a party should challenge the vessel’s cargo care regime. It should specifically include the times when ventilation is not conducted and reasons for not ventilating.
• During voyages, the crew should check the drain valves of the hatch covers for presence of condensation. Condensation may be unavoidable in cold regions but if individual hatches stand out, it may be indicative of self-heating. If condensation forms and the vessel is ventilating, this should be noted in the vessel’s log book in order to document that it occurred despite the crew’s best efforts in cargo care.
• The crew should inspect the cargo at for example weekly intervals within the normal restrictions of vessels at sea. It is not advisable that crew enter the cargo holds, but inspections may be possible via the access ways on deck. Any abnormalities found such as sweat should be noted and logged.
• Voyage delays may give the opportunity for better inspections by opening the hatch covers, if safe to do so. If cargo temperature information can be safely obtained that can be communicated to charterers/cargo interests so that mitigating steps can be considered.